Fascists have posted flyers at a university encouraging its LGBT students to kill themselves.
The posters have the phrase “FOLLOW YOUR FELLOW FAGGOTS” above a picture of a person with a rainbow heart being hanged and suicide statistics for LGBT people.
But Cleveland State University’s president has defended them on the grounds of “free speech”.
The posters went up in the Ohio university’s main classroom building this week, on the same day that the institution opened an LGBT centre.
Seemingly designed by a group called Fascist Solutions, they list a host of troubling statistics about how commonly LGBT people attempt or consider suicides.
“34% of trans people attempt suicide,” students are told, before the posters add that “30% of suicides are LGBT-related” and “Over 40% of bisexual people considered suicide”.
The hateful posters were condemned by local activists.
Eris Eady of the LGBT Centre of Greater Cleveland told NewsNet5: “The coercion of someone attempting to take their own life – there is no humour in that.
“There will never be humour in that. There is nothing funny about death.”
But Ronald Berkman, president of the university, refused to condemn the posters.
Instead, he said his institute of higher education’s “foremost priority is maintaining a welcoming environment that provide opportunities for learning, expression and discourse.
“CSU also is committed to upholding the First Amendment, even with regard to controversial issues where opinion is divided,” he added.
“We will continue to protect free speech to ensure all voices may be heard and to promote a civil discourse where educational growth is the desired result.”
He continued: “CSU remains fully committed to a campus community that respects all individuals, regardless of age, race, colour, religion, national origin, sexual orientation and other historical bases for discrimination.”
Despite this claim, he did not criticise the shockingly homophobic flyers.
The statement called to mind Donald Trump’s assessment of the violence in Charlottesville earlier this year, which saw a white supremacist kill innocent protester Heather Heyer.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence, on many sides,” Trump said at the time. “On many sides.”
Students were not pleased with their President Berkman.
“This is beyond hate speech,” one wrote on Twitter.
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“This poster literally says ‘Fascist Solutions.’ The way @CLE_State responded is absolutely horrendous.”
Another wrote: “I love that these photos went up at my university Cleveland State University & the President’s response was to say ‘First amendment rights'”.
One student warned that hate crimes often follow hate speech, saying that “this isn’t upholding of freedom or neutrality
@PresBerkman this is cowardly endorsement of violence and there will be blood on your hands”.
Another student called the situation “a disgrace,” telling CSU that “you should be ashamed of your inability to support and protect your students.”
Berkman then made another statement, admitting that “yesterday I failed to express my personal outrage over a recent incident involving an anti-LGBTQ+ poster”.
He said he found the poster “reprehensible,” but claimed that free speech meant there was no way to stop this kind of explicit hate speech from being aired.
Instead, he invited everyone on campus to join him and university staff to a discussion today, in which students can voice their concerns.
“If you are unable to attend, please send me your thoughts at [email protected] and I will respond back to you,” he added.
Suicide is preventable. Readers who are affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org), or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.